LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The acting head of the Nevada Department of Corrections said his agency is working to address security issues and staffing inside state prisons after the escape of a convicted murderer last month.
“From top to bottom, the department accepts responsibility for and truly regrets the security breaches that allowed the escape from our custody,” Acting Director William Gittere said Monday.
This was the first meeting since the escape of Porfirio Duarte-Herrera from Southern Desert Correctional Center on Sept. 23. Director Charles Daniels resigned the following week at the request of Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak.
Gittere admitted that staff only learned that the inmate was missing three-and-half days later because another inmate informed them. Duarte-Herrera was taken into custody by officers from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department in downtown Las Vegas five days after he escaped from the medium-security prison.
Gittere and the leadership team of the Department of Corrections provided updates to the Board of Prison Commissioners at the Office of the Governor. Monday marked the first Board of Prison Commissioners meeting since the inmate’s escape. The three-member board oversees Nevada state prisons, and includes Sisolak, Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske and Attorney General Aaron Ford.
The 8 News Now Investigators asked Attorney General Ford about the concerns of inmates, their family members, and prison staff.
“I am engaged with them. We hear from them and I have my staff follow up and do what we can to be responsive,” Ford said.
Melissa Duna, the mother of an inmate at High Desert State Prison, spoke during the public comment section of the meeting.
“We’ve reached out to so many people and there’s no answers,” she said.
Duna told the 8 News Now Investigators that she is particularly concerned with inmate safety. She said that she finally believes her concerns may be heard because of the scrutiny that the department faced after the inmate’s escape.
“I think it’s a start,” she said.
One issue that the department has struggled with is staffing. Currently, the department reports a vacancy rate of approximately 30%.